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Online Collaborative Tools At Events

There can be substantial benefit in using collaborative tools to enhance and document proceedings during events; so much of what is said can be relevant to people who could not attend the event, as well as to participants who want to track sessions in which they did not participate. One of the stated goals of Aspiration events is to develop highly reusable methods for running self-documenting events. Too often, technical events in the nonprofit sector are conceived in a "start from scratch" fashion and subsequent proceedings and outcomes are not documented. Aspiration events and these facilitation materials exist in part to fix this. If you develop or extend approaches to self documentation described here, please take the time to share the process you used with others.

The use of online tools at events is predicated on two assumptions which must not be taken for granted:

  1. The presence of ubiquitous and robust wireless network access, as well as hardwired ethernet access. If there are limited connections to the network and thus to the online venues, the use of online tools is not as advisable.
  2. The ability of all participants to have access to devices for viewing and contributing to the online venues. If only a minority of participants have the capacity to access such resources, a de facto and counter-productive "digital divide" is manifested. While not everyone has a computer they can bring to the event, encourage participants who can to bring laptop computers if online tools will be used in the proceedings. In addition, make sure there are adequate numbers of "public" computers for those without laptops, as well as adequate power outlets for laptop users.

While online collaboration tools can greatly enhance the outcomes of events, they can also serve as a major distraction. Establish specific guidelines for when it is appropriate to be using computers and online, and in particular discourage everyone but note-takers from using laptops during sessions.